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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Updated: September 24, 3:23 PM ET
With these four left, rest of playoffs should be win-win

By Mechelle Voepel
ESPN.com

No offense to the vanquished Fever and Storm, but now that the Game 3 results are in, let's go ahead and look at this fact: The WNBA Finals pretty much can't go wrong.

Detroit will play New York in the Eastern Conference finals, while San Antonio meets Los Angeles in the West … which means the Finals possibilities are:

Shock vs. Sparks: This would be another rendition of the WNBA's most explosive rivalry, kind of the pro league's version of UConn vs. Tennessee. And you might have heard something about the Shock-Sparks tussle in July.

This would be Bill Laimbeer vs. Michael Cooper. (Gee, didn't they used to be NBA players who couldn't stand each other or something?) Candace Parker vs. Plenette Pierson. (Maybe they would both just try to yank each other's wounded shoulder out of its socket? Yeesh.) The tag team of DeLisha Milton-Jones/Lisa Leslie vs. Rick Mahorn all by himself. (This might be a separate WWE pay-per-view event.)

Oh, wait a minute … if there's going to be any pro wrestling going on, mega-fan Taj McWilliams-Franklin wants in on that action. Trader Bill got McWilliams-Franklin away from the going-nowhere-fast Mystics, and now she has another chance at a WNBA championship, this time with Detroit.

Plus, any series where you'd have both CP3 and Deanna Nolan involved means you get the best skills women's basketball has to offer.

Shock vs. Silver Stars: This would be a matchup of the teams with the best records from the regular season.

The last time San Antonio star Sophia Young played a really, really big game against a team from Michigan, she came up with Final Four MVP honors. That was in the 2005 NCAA title contest when Young and Baylor defeated Michigan State.

Lisa Leslie
Lisa Leslie had 15 points and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, which on Tuesday handed Seattle just its second home loss of the season.

San Antonio post Ruth Riley would have the opportunity to knock out a franchise that she helped lead to two titles. Becky Hammon and Vickie Johnson would be going for the championship they fell short of winning while they were with New York. Which leads us to…

Silver Stars vs. Liberty: San Antonio's backcourt, of course, used to belong to New York. And it's not like any fans in the Big Apple have ever forgotten about ol' Becky and VJ.

Still, Liberty fans are fond of their "new" players and want to see them succeed. The Liberty would seem to have the longest odds of any of the four teams left to make the finals. But the way they played so loose and confident on offense against Connecticut in the first round might be something that New York can capitalize on again.

Liberty vs. Sparks: Of course, this would be our nation's two largest cities, New York and L.A., and would be a repeat of the 2002 championship series.

In doing some computer reorganizing Tuesday, I randomly stumbled across my columns from those two games, both won by the Sparks.

The first was in New York, where L.A. overcame the loss of then-starter Tamecka Dixon (she was injured getting off the bus at Madison Square Garden, no lie) and singer Joan Jett's Sparks voodoo doll. The second contest was in L.A., and Nikki Teasley made the game-winning shot.

Cooper, Leslie and Milton-Jones were there in L.A. back when the Sparks won their second consecutive WNBA title, and they're together again this year.

That 2002 Liberty team was a veteran group that had been together for a while, and some of the players knew their competitive time was running out.

But New York now, led by Shameka Christon, doesn't have that same sense of career-winding-down desperation, as so many of the players are young. But the 2008 Liberty would have to prove that it can stand up to the physical play of Los Angeles.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.